Submitted to: Computers and Electronics in Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/6/2001
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Precision agriculture technology from the equipment and application is ready to deliver for U.S. agriculture. However, the decision making capability to take advantage of precision agriculture is not ready for this revolution with the exception of crop model based decision support. For the past 100 years, U.S. agricultural research has been oriented toward taking small plot research and through Extension, delivering applied research to general situations across all soil types and climates. Precision agriculture, however, needs the opposite information to be effective. Tactical crop models applied with decision support capability and geographic information systems technology can provide the specific information needed to implement precision or site specific agriculture, i.e. planting density, nitrogen applications timing and amount, irrigation application timing and amount, plant growth regulator timing and amount, all specific to each soil type in a field and responding to current weather.
Technical Abstract: The application of process-level, physiologically and physically based crop models in tactical decision making in production agriculture has now come full circle. In the beginning years of the development of this technology in the 1970's and early 1980's, the researchers' task was to take models which were developed to simulate the physical processes in soils taken from specific sites and to extend these models to simulate crops growing in the entire field consisting of many soil types. Because of the information required and the computations required, many years of effort were devoted to reducing information needed to simulate crop growth and yield and to minimize the number of simulation runs needed to develop recommendations for scheduling fertilization, irrigation, application of plant growth regulators, and application of crop termination chemicals. With the advent of low cost sensors which can precisely determine location from the Global Position System satellites, the availability of powerful low cost computer systems, the use of Geographic Information Systems software, and the development of variable rate application technology, row crop production agriculture can now make use of site specific, or precision agriculture recommendations to optimize production while minimizing inputs. The challenge of utilization of this new technology is how to manage the deluge of information that precision agriculture will generate. We propose that the marriage of Geographic Information System software developed specifically for agricultural production with accurate, reliable crop models can be a solution to information management and to the generation of optimal agricultural chemical utilization within season in response to specific crop needs.